Last year's socionomic analysis nicknamed September Vogue 2013 the Black and White issue.
At first glance the cover of September Vogue 2014 seemed to have morphed from black and white to Fifty Shades Of Grey. Inside however, The Great Grey Payoff wasn't there.
Oh, it was there. Here and there. Just not there.
Everything else was there. In addition to grey, there was beige, pastel, black and white, bright color, floral, fur, reptile, leopard...heels, flats, boots, scarves, oversized coats, slim skirts, skin, no skin, cozy ensembles, and streamlined looks. It was all there.
All over the place. AOTP.
September Vogue was far more than a single color or a film promotion. The issue said goodbye Hollywood and reconnected with Fashion.
September Vogue was about The Big Reboot.
All over Seventh Avenue, fashion is leading by turning back on itself. Vogue noticed, and so should you.
First, the very magazine that understood the celebrity trend before anyone else, reversed course and went back to featuring models on the cover. This sent reverberations throughout the social media sphere. September Vogue 2014 was a redux of its 2004 model ensemble cover. Remember that word.
While it may be true that there is no bad publicity, what about when there is no publicity at all? Other than a few @ symbols, Twitter barely got a sniff.
Meanwhile, Instagirl and 3X Vogue cover star Cara DeLevingne recently gave Twitter the kind of publicity that it doesn't need.
Twitter rants are the leading edge of what the Socionomics Institute has warned will be the devolution from social media to anti-social media.
No one is more fickle than the consumer. If advertisers detect the same change in people's social media habits that the team at Vogue has, watch out Twitter.
So September Vogue was a huge coup for Instagram and for the digital world. By acknowledging nine "models of the moment" -- and their 12,000,000 followers -- Vogue has shown that the online tail now wags the offline dog.
The Big Reboot also extended beyond the magazine itself and throughout the entire company which owns Vogue: Condé Nast. And for good reason. For one, ad pages are down, and two, several competitors reported their largest issues ever.
So even Condé Nast rebooted. A new CFO was appointed, a few bosses left along with a few editors, and the current president took on an expanded role in the company's financial operations.
Perhaps the biggest and best change was that Anna Wintour took on the additional responsibilities of creative director of Condé Nast, a position created just for her in order to help its other magazines become brands like Vogue.
But business-wise, the publishers have their work cut out for them. The competition is beating down the door.
Through September, arch-rival InStyle had 1,924 ad pages compared to Vogue’s 1,922, even though Vogue ruled September once again with 631 ad pages (down 4.5 percent for the month) compared to InStyle’s 485 (up 6 percent). Vogue is down 5.5 percent for the year to date. InStyle is off only 2.6 percent through September.
Once again, Elle reported its biggest issue in the magazine’s history, up 5.2 percent from last year's record.
Ditto Harper’s Bazaar: the largest issue on record for the magazine at 444 ad pages, and its 11.6 percent increase was the largest percentage gain of any of its rivals.
Ditto Marie Claire: its ad pages increased 6 percent to a record.
Ditto WSJ. Magazine: it closed its largest issue in its six-year history.
Even T, The New York Times Style Magazine had its biggest issue in more than six years.
Also, Town & Country, that perennial flagship of the traditional establishment, had Hearst’s biggest increase of all — 25.4 percent. This too is something to take a note of. It may signify a shift back to conservative mood.
Vogue Publisher Susan Plagemann noted that "digital advertising is through the roof ...up 30 percent after a 20 percent jump last year." So yet another shrewd reason for the social media reboot.
But these overall trends, especially at rivals Elle and InStyle, deserve attention. Is Vogue slipping? Or, more likely, are consumers changing?
September Vogue 2014 provides a long but detailed answer.
First, a few reminders. This is not an analysis of fashion trends per se, but how fashion trends telegraph social mood trends, which can influence financial trends.
Hence its title, The Socionomic Implications Of September Vogue.
It is inspired by the groundbreaking work of Robert Prechter who pioneered the new science of socionomics, which is the study of how social mood dictates the character of social actions.
It is also based on the work of the late Paul Montgomery, originator of the Magazine Cover Indicator, which holds that by the time a financial trend reaches the cover of a magazine it's usually over.
This year's socionomic implications differ from previous years in that they are embedded in the editorial content rather than the visuals, so what follows is more of an inference scanning and content analysis exercise than it is a visual deconstruction.
This exercise distinguishes between content and context, text and subtext.
Words often hide in context, but when removed of their contextual wrapping words can carry a completely different message than the one being presented. These alternate messages -- or "Freudian slips" -- can act as subconscious communication.
These slips flow unintentionally from the subconscious minds of the writers and editors who are unknowingly impulsed by the same social mood dynamics as the rest of society. Textually they may be trying to say one thing, but the resulting subtext (subconsciously driven by social mood) may mean something entirely different.
Therefore "context stripping" is used. This is not just randomly pulling words out of headlines. It's about pattern recognition. It's the plurality of similar messages that is of interest, not simply a few one-offs.
If you think content pattern recognition is splitting hairs, know this: the CIA doesn't.
For example, the 2011 version of The Socionomic Implications Of September Vogue flagged the word CONCEAL.
Now Stealth Wear is Coming to a Store Near You
2011 also noted that we were "somewhere in the ‘70s headed for the unrest of the ‘60s."
Then Ferguson happened.
2012 noted the beginnings of polarization and mixed social mood. It's still occurring.
2013 flagged The Hunger Games Economy. It's still occurring.
London is at the heart of ‘Hunger Games’ economy
Luxury Apartment Building Will Have Separate Door For Poor Residents
2013 also warned to "be on guard for the unexpected."
First there was the Federal Reserve's infamous "Untaper" only weeks after the warning. "The Federal Open Market Committee defied widespread forecasts that it would announce the beginning of a cutback in its $85 billion-a-month purchases of Treasury and mortgage bonds."
Then Russia annexed Crimea and subsequently invaded Ukraine.
Then Iraq fell, again.
Then an as estimated 60,000 unaccompanied children crossed the southern border of the USA.
So the study of social mood has far reaching implications.
As you'll soon see, this year's edition is a long post. The patterns and repetition were consistent and were remarkably market focused. Almost everything you need begins on page 612 and runs to page 842.
To make things easier to understand (hopefully):
Important words are bolded.
Story titles are CAPPED.
...Headlines, or parts of headlines, as well as editorial text, use ellipses like these...
(my comments are in lowercase and parentheses)
Context stripping uses
Page numbers are given in case you want to follow along with the issue.
STREET SMART... p. 612
...Meet the wunderkinds, visionaries, and dynamic duos who are refining everyday dressing...
(for an analysis that seeks to use a fashion mag to decode trends in the stock market STREET SMART is an absolute goldmine. there's an old adage on Wall Street: don't confuse a bull market with brains. beware -- "Street Smart" makes the playing markets sound easy. just when it seems so, it suddenly isn't)
(also, wunderkinds, visionaries, and dynamic duos are positive mood words. wunderkind is an especially loaded word that should be taken seriously as it tends to signal a high-water mark. for example: Once a wunderkind, Turkey’s decline is now complete)
...it helps to have eyes in the back of your head...
(especially when you're about to get jumped, or when things are about to suddenly change...)
...just as things have been speeding along so mesmerizingly fast...a whole new thing unexpectedly shot into view from the margins...
(change happens fast, especially after you've been mesmerized)
STREET SIGNS... p. 618
...let's start at the ground...
(amazing phrase with a stock market at historic highs. is that a street sign, or hint?)
...look down at the footwear that has swept through fashion in 2014...
(another street sign?)
...sneakers are the Trojan horse...
(this is a powerful statement. a harbinger of a major turning point? has a foe been allowed in?)
...wholesale shift from high heels to low...
(brightly colored platform shoes gave the last reliable socionomic sell signal back in spring of 2012. since then social mood has been too mixed to give reliable signals. so a "wholesale shift" from high heels to low is huge. also "wholesale shift from high to low." foreboding stuff)
...it's another blip on the radar of a bigger change: Fashion at large is readjusting, grounding itself in different sensibilities -- not the tired fantasy of taking a limo from house to red carpet, but rather the idea of walking in the streets and riding the subway. Casual. Real...
(it might be a blip now, but a more conservative, more grounded consumer signals declining social mood and should not be ignored)
...The seismology of this change is a global phenomenon that rises from the shared coordinates of a generation looking at everything with new eyes...
(nowhere to hide from this shift. "seismology" hints at earthshaking)
...In a pedestrian way you could call it a new wave of practical, street-style clothes elevated in desirable and affordable ways...
(subtext -- "pedestrian, practical, affordable street-style has been elevated and is now desirable: this is the new wave." also an accidental reference to Elliott wave technical analysis)
(all this copy was juxtaposed against a $1,550 blouse and $1,590 kilt!)
...It registered at the Paris shows, where Nicolas Ghesquière took a 180-degree turn away from conceptual fashion for his Louis Vuitton debut, calling his simple, wearable pieces "the new normal"...
(another financial reference, popularized by PIMCO. if the new normal is simplicity, what might that say about risk appetites?)
(according to socionomics, androgyny increases in a bear market)
...It's a vast difference from what might have happened a decade or so ago...
(a decade ago -- 2004 -- was the last time Vogue featured a group of models for its September issue. also a "vast difference from what happened a decade ago" could refer to the fact that the markets had put in a major low just over a year before. vastly different now having just put in all-time highs)
...The exciting thing about the change is that the fashion system as a whole is now actively seeking and co-opting new points of view and new ways of carrying on...
(the fashion system...or the financial system? are Wall Street's values co-opting Main Street's? with the Federal Reserve still providing monetary accommodation as the markets hit all-time highs, regrettably the answer is probably yes)
...start-ups like Marques' Almeida, which disrupted the party-wear designer scene in London by sending its radically shredded denims down the runway, as it is of the appreciation and recognition garnered by New York's cult-sneaker crew Common Projects...
(nothing says "street disruption" like "radically shredded." cult reference)
...Fashion is an organism that senses when it needs to reboot itself...
(another powerful statement, probably the crux of the entire issue. love the reference to biology: it could also be said that the market is an organism that senses when it needs to reboot itself. in fact, this is what socionomics is all about)
...Connected communities -- whether online, on Instagram, or around actual stores where young people go to spend whole afternoons talking obsessively about fashion -- are the foundations on which this movement is being built...
(much of the world is at war while our youth enjoy leisure and obsess over fashion. no joy again for Twitter, either)
STREET SIGNS p. 620
The New Princes Of Cool
...Public School delivers a master class in masculine-inflected womenswear...
(notice it's not PRIVATE school -- too highbrow. masculine-inflected womenswear is a bear market indicator according to socionomics -- "women gain dominance in a bear market." first of many signs of a cooling trend, and also being too cool, too hip, too smart)
...Drawing on such inspirational references as the cult movie Blade Runner...
(not exactly a happy film, premiered around the 1982 bear market lows. another cult reference)
NAME OF THE GAME p. 628
(the game is called buy low, sell high. or as legendary trader Jessie Livermore said, pushing the market "as high as possible and then selling to the public on the way down")
STREET SIGNS p. 630
The Godfather Of Understated Cool
(street signs -- a revolution anyone? more cool, but understated)
...If it were 1968...
(if it is, we're screwed. 1968 was a major top and the beginning of a bear market that lasted until Blade Runner came out. the initial decline into 1970 saw the Dow drop 30%. today that would mean a drop to around 12,000)
STREET SIGNS p. 638
(is this street sign telling us that the market is a shoe-in? sounds like a sure thing)
...Cult Favorite Label Common Projects Is The Sneaker World's Best-Kept Secret...
(perhaps the world's best-kept secret is that there is very little actual money backing up what we think of as "money." unless you have your own vault, you probably don't have an account with actual money sitting in it. you have digital credits. and hey, another cult reference, too)
STREET SIGNS, p. 640
...Brash and boundary-breaking, Hood By Air is storming fashion's barricades...
(so, a bunch of brash boundary-breaking punks and hoods are poised to storm the barricades...by air? sometimes you just gotta laugh at these :)
STREET SIGNS p. 642
The Dream Team
(now that's a "street sign", and the 6th one to boot. note: whenever you hear the term "dream team" run)
|February 15th, 1999|
...Young fashion in 2014 consists less of a great arc than a great ark, with designers marching on board two by two...
(to escape a great flood?)
IDYLL WILD p. 644
...From edenic gardens to electric guitars, Lily Allen's Cotswolds home is as bold -- and balanced -- as the singer...
(Idyll -- as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary: a simple descriptive work in poetry or prose that deals with rustic life or pastoral scenes or suggests a mood of peace and contentment. in the markets, this is referred to as Goldilocks and often manifests as a period of low volatility which can last for some time. yet if the edenic mood also describes the financial markets, they may be ripe for a change. bold and balanced sounds like mixed social mood)
SONIC BOOM p. 648
(maybe some change in the form of a sonic boom? alternatively, boom could mean more rally)
ITALIAN EXPORTS p. 654
(Italy is the third largest bond market in the world -- keep an eye on it. it just recorded its lowest CPI reading ever as the country officially re-entered recession. interestingly, as if not to be outdone by any of this American Vogue nonsense, Italian Vogue put 50 supermodels on its September cover)
...divested of ankle-endangering elevation, paired-down footwear evokes a more discreet sense of chic...
(more evidence of a wholesale shift. is elevation endangering us? and is it a signal to pair down or risk being divested of our net worth? are risks understated?)
...Mary Alice Malone says her shoes should "almost disappear"...
Camel advertisement p. 655
DISCOVER THE UNEXPECTED (ironic nod to 2013's socionomic implications)
FIT TO BE TIED p. 656
...Why The Scarf Is The New Necklace...
(more cool. "fit to be tied" is an idiom which can mean angry and agitated. is the scarf the the new choker?)
THE SILK ROAD p. 656
(keep an eye on China for a possible upside surprise)
EFFORTLESS ÉLAN p. 660
(making money in the markets is so easy and fun!)
SEIZING THE DAY p. 667
(not seize, but seizing -- as in seizing up?)
...meet three women bringing a fresh coat of cool to your manicure...
(ad on opposite page: Look stunning -- all the way way down
(Merck ad: "You've got a lot on your mind. Why think about taking birth control every day?" could also read:
You've got a lot on your mind. Why think
Smith & Cult's Vegas Post-apocalyptic
(another cult reference...on the lookout for Kool Aid now)
HEAD TURNER p. 678
...With his relaxed street-chic sensibility, hairstylist Anthony Turner has his finger -- and scissors -- on the pulse of what women want...
(at ease, again. intro could also read, Anthony Turner has his
Runway to reality
Cults of personality
(ok, that's five cult mentions so far...)
...what's old is new...
(maybe this means study your market history, you know, stuff that happened before 1995? in fact, this may be a good time to mention another recurring pattern, that of the redux of several actresses in this issue -- ironic because while the editorial refocused on fashion, the advertising brought back Hollywood females such as Winona Ryder, Jessica Lange, and Angelica Huston. 90s sensations Eva Herzigova and Linda Evangelista appeared as well)
PRETTY HURTS p. 692
...From skin-tightening shockwaves to more injections than she can count, Nancy Hass reflects on beauty's pain and, ultimately, pleasure...
("pretty hurts" could warn "do not fall in love with Goldilocks" or else risk the shockwaves)
ad for HYPE energy drink, p. 713
(yep, that's pretty much what hype looks like)
HIGH NOTES p. 714
(pot? or stocks?)
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
(an apt question during social mood polarization)
Greece is the word
(and its sovereign debt troubles are still not over, so it's time to...)
GET SERIOUS p. 720
(get serious before it's check mate)
THERE SHE GOES p. 726
...Extraordinary women dominate
(extraordinary women dominate...during bear markets)
THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT p. 731
(turning points for fall 2014 -- another subtle, and timely, market reference complete with a spur for emphasis. "spur of the moment" from Merriam-Webster: occurring or developing without premeditation: hastily extemporized. out of the blue?)
...Orange is the new black. Yes, really. And no, we're not talking prison jumpsuits...
(one of the few references to outright color-as-uniform. suggestive of peaking social mood intertwined with dark humor. interestingly, Elle UK's September issue declared that "Happy is the new black" for a peak social mood echo from across the pond)
BELLE FLEUR P. 732
(turn September on its head. also noting the word DELICATE)
(watch your step)
(maximum markets on minimum volume)
Flying on the ground
(another ground reference, flying into it perhaps?)
(sounds like "mission accomplished")
La Vie en Rose
(life through rose-colored glasses, or literally "life in pink")
(another market reference, and possibly the most iconic ever coined)
Buzz, Buzz, Buzz
(financial news outlets are buzzing with "all-time record high" announcements)
THE DANCE OF SEDUCTION p. 748
(there is nothing like a persistently rising market to seduce investors to invest)
DARK HORSE p. 758
(a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence. with bullish sentiment at the highest levels of the year according to AAII, the Consensus Index, Investors Intelligence, and Market Vane, and with the Credit Suisse Fear Barometer at an all-time low (no fear), which is more likely to be a dark horse: a bull or a bear?)
(watch out for these. a couple classic blanket statements: "stock prices have reached what appears like a permanently high plateau" (three days before the 1929 crash) and "the death of equities" BusinessWeek cover from 1979)
Mining for copper
(apparently many are: copper hit its lowest level this year since 2010)
(to move with liveliness and courage, so snap to it)
Riding the wave
(another market reference to Elliott wave technical analysis. with such uniform levels of bullishness, many are riding the current wave)
A MODERN ODYSSEY p. 772
(echoes SPACE ODYSSEY from September Vogue: 2012. also another nod to the Trojan War, after which Odysseus journeyed home for 10 years)
ARRESTING DEVELOPMENT p. 774
(a cessation of growth, or market trend?)
SETTING SAIL p. 776
...A dozen years and $135 million in the making, Paris's newest art museum, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, is luxury titan Bernard Arnault's most ambitious project yet...
Rising to the occasion
(rising, or "has risen" to the occasion? or is the occasion just around the corner?)
(is the museum about to cave in or something? or is something else about to? an amazing slip of the tongue while describing such architectural flourish)
SWEPT AWAY p. 792
(visual looks like castaways who lost everything at sea. don't let yourself get swept away with the searing drama of social mood extremes, whether positive or negative)
TOP SPIN p. 794
(another veiled market reference perhaps? spin is common on financial television. recently heard: "Nothing is cheap but stocks can keep going higher")
(this is what the entire market rests on: a mountain of confidence. confidence games are perpetrated by con artists)
(in Vogue's own words on page 731, "It's September, not spring, but designers are still delivering armloads of romantic butterflies and posies. Gather ye rosebuds. And daisies. And lilies." sounds quite lighthearted and joyful as one would expect near a top. markets don't top when things aren't going well; they top when things are as good as they're going to get)
SWEETEN THE POT p. 800
...Riding a wave
(nothing sweetens the pot like seriously all-time highs which promise that you, too, can ride the wave. also, haute cuisine is LOL hilarious)
THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT p. 804
(a common misconception is that the market needs an outside, or exogenous cause, to change. Socionomics would say that changes in trend happen for endogenous reasons, that investors can suddenly buy or sell for no other reason than they just do. still, the butterfly effect is another fascinating tidbit alongside the rest)
(it would have to be all the inadvertent market references in this issue)
TOPPED OFF p. 806
(filled to the brim, but ready to transition backward?)
PLAYING IT COOL p. 808
...Embrace the elements with superchill
(again, maybe a little too cool)
(some might say the markets are sugar coated at these levels)
The big chill
(this takes the "too cool" metaphor to a whole new level)
Chasing the wind
(sounds like a central bank liquidity trap: "pushing on a string")
CITY SWAGGER p. 818
(how's this for confident: featuring a $16,500 bomber, a $15,250 coat, a $58,000 fur bomber jacket, and not one but three different 18K gold rings priced at $32,000 and $47,000 in the same photo shoot. that's SWAGGER)
(markets stair-stepping higher and higher. more to go?)
(God bless all the bulls who have been long stocks. can longs reach higher?)
(in a wild world, anything can happen at anytime)
(...are here again. enjoy them)
CALL OF THE WILD p. 824
...Journey into winter
(shall we be preparing for Kondratieff Winter? the final, brutal, phase of the 50-60-year Kondratieff Cycle)
(alpha females will be leaders of the pack. remember the socionomic tenet: "women gain dominance in a bear market")
(sounds like over confidence. careful for a sudden chill)
On the prowl
(bears? or animal spirits? again, according to multiple market sentiment readings, the bears are in hibernation again, and bullish readings are close to a record)
(stake your claim. can't help but flag the word FRAGILE after noting the word DELICATE on page 732. five years on it's still a fragile recovery)
..."A coddling, enveloping, fluffy, snowball shape -- the opposite of body-hugging -- is what we crave now"...
(fuzzy thinking and covering up are hallmarks of bear markets, per Socionomics)
..."There's a flavor of fairy tales
(it's a new mood alright, and one that could have far-reaching effects. careful of those who would spin yarns, entice you with a confidence game, or tell you a fairy tale)
..."Run with the wolves of Wall Street"...
(careful, they can bite. incredibly, another direct reference to Wall Street)
(don't become one when you run with those wolves)
GET YOUR KICKS p. 836
...More is more...
(until it isn't, kind of like investor confidence, or monetary stimulus. get your kicks while you still can)
RIVER RUN p. 841
(keep your eyes on the horizon and your barometer ready)
SPOILED FOR CHOICE p. 842
(the sad state of affairs in one of the richest countries in the world)
As warned, that was a pretty large body of work to wade through.
Full disclosure, I have zero faith in this market's fundamentals, so the comments should be viewed with healthy skepticism. Yet even I am amazed by the content and context of this September Vogue. The sheer volume of "accidental subtext" should be a warning even to the most steadfast bulls.
Given the overall context of The Big Reboot, and given the plethora of overt warnings, it is very hard to present a case whereby the markets continue soaring without a reboot of their own, especially when confronted with a central message such as:
Fashion is an organism that senses when it needs to reboot itself
After all, nowhere in this issue was any specific reference to CONTINUATION.
The word REBOOT then feels like the correct lens with which to distill the information that's been collected. One that focuses squarely on the issue's main theme. One that puts the content in context. Only then, when we pull it all together, can we recognize that perhaps the organism itself is speaking...
At this Endangering Elevation....Pretty Hurts and could send Shockwaves through the Hype...it's Match Point...no more High Notes...time to Get Serious...
The Turning points for Fall...and could end up Turning September on its Head...Winged Victory?...that's just Irrational Exuberance...
Bet on a Dark Horse instead of Fairy Tales or Spinning Yarns... or risk Riding the Wave to a Skyfall...with Everything to lose...
Top Spin...is a Confidence Game to Sweeten the Pot at Seriously Haute levels by the New Princes of Cool...who are Too Cool for School...and could cause a Butterfly Effect...
Topped Off...before a Retro Transition...into a Polar Vortex...for The Big Chill...
It's Sugar Coated, all this Swagger...beckoning you to Run With the Wolves of Wall Street to Get Your Kicks...
Sure, a bunch of these could easily be woven together to spin a bullish yarn, but not in the context of a Reboot.
Furthermore, there was the use of the redux throughout the issue, the word you were asked to remember earlier.
The redux of several models and actresses whose peak popularity ranged from the 1970s to the mid-1990s may point to periods which we should study in the markets. For example, the Street Signs story on page 630 entitled Revolution Row began "If it were 1968..." which was notable for being the top of the market before a 30% decline and then a long, sideways bear market that lasted until 1982.
Earlier, the question was posed: Is Vogue slipping? Or, are consumers changing?
Vogue is definitely not slipping. Consumers are. It's the direction and character of the slippage that is noteworthy. And this analysis suggests it is a shift toward negative social mood, which at all-time market highs, is dangerous -- especially when five independent market sentiment readings reveal very high levels of bullishness.
Recall this earlier sentence: "...just as things have been speeding along so mesmerizingly fast...a whole new thing unexpectedly shot into view from the margins..."
Robert Prechter said, "When optimism has been high for a long time, it takes very little movement away from peak euphoria to produce stunning effects."
In other words, just a reboot in the market would likely feel terrifying to many.
These are the socionomic implications of September Vogue 2014.
Special thanks to Robert Prechter for the pioneering science of socionomics and for the inspiration. Without his work, very little of this would be possible; to the Socionomics Institute for holding the torch high; and to the late Paul Montgomery of Universal Economics for the inspiration of the Magazine Cover Indicator. May he rest in peace.